These Old Shades; What a thumping good read!

Several times before I have recommended Georgette Heyer to my female readers (although a fella who likes Jane Austen might be interested, as well). I admit, I am an unabashed fool for The Convenient Marriage – one of the funniest and best-written books I’ve ever read into the night while giggling enough to awaken my husband. Now, I have a second “favorite.”

So, on Friday, I began reading one of Heyer’s earliest books, These Old Shades – a book I’d avoided because I generally don’t like stories set in France – all those French names and airs! But quickly I became completely swept up by this writer’s incredible gift for character and historical accuracy. In this book Heyer manages to create a bright and chirping heroine and match her to a dark, truly dark, hero one nevertheless wants to trust, and to write a story that is – at its core – rather harrowing, while still managing to make you smile. That’s no small feat.

I admit, this one is not a laugh-out-loud sort of book. Although the hero’s sister and brother are blithe and perfect comic creations, one’s urge to snigger is tempered by the ghastly background story of Leon…and Leonie. At one point I was surprised to find myself wiping away tears – I do not usually weep over a bit of fiction – and yesterday afternoon, trying to gobble down the book before an evening engagement, I watched Heyer go to an astounding place, and I slapped the book down, flabbergasted.

“I can’t believe she wrote that!” I said to my husband.

“What,” he said, completely disinterested.

“What she wrote; I can’t believe she went there – that she took her hero to that place – and she made it heroic!”

“This is a bad thing?”

“I would never have the guts to do it! I’d never be able to write it! It’s such a moral conundrum!”

“Is this the heroine we’re talking about?”

“No, the writer! And the hero!”

“I thought the writer was a woman,” he said. “That would make her a heroine.”

“Bah!” I said, channeling the heroine, “you don’t understand! The hero…he did something so reprehensible – very, very bad, indeed!”

“So, it’s bad, the book,” he wondered.

I sighed. “It’s freaking glorious! It’s phenomenal! I can’t believe she went there, though! What a read this is! What a thumping good read! A triumph! Absolument!

Sadly, I had to wait until we’d returned, rather late, to get back into and finally finish the story. And tonight…I begin to read it again, because a book this good deserves a second read. You’ll love it. What a read!

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • Dr. Sanity

    Did you know that there is an equally good sequel to “These Old Shades” ? It is “The Devil’s Cub”. I have every single book Heyer ever wrote. They are among my favorites. Enjoy!

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  • JeannineK

    Thank you for telling me about Georgette Heyer! I’ve read the couple of selections in my local library and am now looking for more.

  • autmnwnd

    There is a sequel to “These Old Shades”, it’s “Devil’s Cub”. You will enjoy it immensely as well.


  • TheAnchoress

    I have an amazon gift certificate and just ordered Black Moth and Devil’s Cub. Can’t wait!

  • Cathy

    I loved both These Old Shades and its sequel Devil’s Cub. I’ll be interested in your reaction to The Black Moth.

    Have you read Regency Buck? Civil Contract? An Infamous Army (a distant sequel to Devil’s Cub)? Beauvallet? Sylvester (or the Wicked Uncle)? So many more….

    Oh, to be a Georgette Heyer newbie and have all those great books to read for the first time….


  • autmnwnd

    The books are just as good the second time, and the third time, and the fourth…… I have been reading Georgette Heyer’s works for 30 years. Love them all. I may have to begin a new cycle of rereading with you, Anchoress. Thanks for the reminder!


    P.S. Check out author Diana Gabaldon.

  • MB

    I have read all of Heyer’s works more than once. There is simply no other author like her! I tried a couple of others and found them to be soft porn (ewwww!). After her delightful banter, they were a shallow disappointment.
    If anyone is interested in mysteries, I would highly recommend Dorothy Sayers. She writes (wrote) beautifully and, like Heyer, depends on her story and plot to keep the interest (and delight) of her readers unlike most “best seller” types who insert gore or sex to keep selling books. Alas, she is also dead but her books are treasures!

  • MelanieB

    I love These Old Shades! It was the book that seduced me into reading Heyer. Up to that point, I’d scoffed at my roommates’ confessed addiction. And then they started reading These Old Shades aloud on the back porch. I was sucked in, I couldn’t walk away. I had to find out what happened next. I love Heyer in all her moods, but this novel has a special place in my heart because it was my first Heyer.

  • seraphic single

    For some reason, it was this post that turned me from lurker to commmentator. Anyway, Georgette Heyer’s organon were the only romance novels my mother allowed me to read. They were lined up in a glass-fronted bookcase in the upstairs hallway, their candy coloured spines calling out to me before I could read. I used to look at the pretty illustrations on the covers. And then, one fine day, I began to read them. “These Old Shades” is still one of my favourites. It is a richer novel than many of them, for it has a wicked hero who neverless has the character to see his wickedness and do something about it.